Weekly Devotional

Short break from Weekly Devotional

Hi guys and gals! I’m writing to let you know that I’ve decided to take a short break from publishing the weekly devotional.

I know I just did a short break not that long ago. And I was hoping to continue strong!

So. . . why the break?

Most of you already know that I write books (and do all the publishing nonsense, and write this devotional) in the in-between hours.

I have a day-job, where I work full-time, and I have a young family.

My life, in the past, has at times become fairly unbalanced, because I’ve let work become too all-consuming.

In the last two years, I’ve made a lot of positive changes to get a better balance between work and the rest of life.

My hope has been to be focused first on my personal faithfulness to Christ, and second on being there for my family.

I don’t know why this has been a consistent challenge. But it has.

My family is going through a period of fairly intense suffering, so right now I feel compelled to spend more time with them. And, since I’m not going to quit my full-time job, that means I have to slow down my writing activity.

I think I will still be able to publish Abram, my next full-length novel, in April, because I’m nearly finished. And it’s the longest, and I think the best, book yet. I worked very hard to put much more into this one than into previous books. More research, more depth to the characters, better writing, etc.

As pressures mounted last year, and as they continue to mount in 2021, I’ve been pondering this section of 1 Corinthians a lot, and felt it as a challenge:

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” – 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Elsewhere, Scripture also tells us:

“But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” – 1 Timothy 5:8

Seems to make it clear that being there for your family physically, emotionally, and spiritually, is a big deal. And it makes me feel challenged to do better for my family.

I know that writing can be used powerfully. Yet sometimes I have felt that the enormous amount of hours I’ve had to pour into it have included a bit of “boxing the air.”

Sometimes, there are just more important responsibilities.

The work we do to help those we don’t know matters greatly.

But if we abandon our families when they are in need, or shirk our responsibility to them, what does that say of us?

What does that say of Christ?

PRAYER

Lord, give us wisdom to know how to live in a way that honors and pleases you. Don’t let us find ourselves disqualified at the end of the race! Instead, lead us by your Spirit. Give us clarity, by your Word, and give us the strength to faithfully obey your commands and advice. Amen.

I Hate Cancer – A Sabbath Selah Devotional

I hate cancer.

It grows in darkness. Reacts negatively to light. Exists only as a perversion—dysfunction so desperate that it forgets its rightful place in the body and breaks out, multiplies, and spreads.

It inserts itself into things that function perfectly well. Then overwhelms, consumes, and eventually replaces it.

In its wake, it leaves death.

I can’t help but think, as I watch cancer consume my brother, that it’s a mirror of the evil inside us.

Every time the word cancer hovers over our loved ones, fear punctures our hearts.

What’s strange is that, because sin is everywhere, we rarely bat an eye at the fact that for each of us, our soul-cancer is terminal.

Grappling with my brother’s illness has forced me to consider, “How do I live now?”

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Fear no man – A Sabbath Selah Devotional

Fear no man devotional image

According to YouVersion, the largest Bible engagement app in the world, the most-read verse in 2020 was Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

I think it would be a true statement to say that most of us have lost at least some level of faith in political officials.

So, rather than try to conjure up something psuedo-profound, I think the intensity of the troubles we are facing (COVID, death in family, job loss, political tension, depression, loneliness and isolation, etc.) demands the words of Scripture.

“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” – Matthew 10:28

This is a wonderfully comforting quote from Jesus himself.

Yet if you are anything like me, you’re already wondering, “Why exactly should we not fear those who kill the body?”

After all, death sounds pretty unpleasant.

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Be Patient like Abram

be patient like abram devotional image

As I’ve been working on my next novel based on Abram’s life, what’s struck me most is the amount of time he waited for God’s promise to be fulfilled. And I realized, “Boy, someday I want to be patient like Abram.”

We don’t know from what age Abram began to follow God. Neither do we know how long he knew God had a future blessing for him.

But we know that he was born in an ancient Mesopotamian city named Ur, where the god Nanna was worshipped.

We also know from Scripture that Abram’s father, Terah, was an idolater (Joshua 24:2). And according to Jewish tradition, he even made and sold idols.

How Abram began to follow the God of Noah and Shem is a mystery with many potential answers. Genesis leaves much to the imagination.

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Trusting God when there’s violence in DC – A Sabbath Selah Devotional

This week, the capital was broken into by a politically motivated mob.

The new year came, and I was hoping that with it would come more peace.

Because last year, because of political riots, we saw cities (our own!) burning. Set aflame by anarchists bent on personal gain, while politicians stood by and encouraged it.

Horrific violence has come from the left. Heinous violence has also come from the right.

When surrounded by enemies on both sides, who do we put our trust in? When all those who are supposed to save us turn out to be immoral goons, who remains trustworthy?

Thank God, we have the person of Jesus and the words of Scripture to give us stability and courage in the midst of upheaval.

Because Scripture says, “For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm! God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne.” – Psalm 47:7-8

That means that from Trump’s inauguration, successes, and failures, to Biden’s future inauguration, successes, and failures, God is the one truly pulling the strings.

Nothing that will happen in the next days, weeks, months, years, will surprise him, although it will almost certainly surprise us.

And no matter what happens, none of it is outside his ability to bend it all to his good purposes.

Yet still, through history, he has encouraged his followers to pray for peace, for a quiet life that is honorable in every way, and for relief from persecution and suffering.

Part of the way he gets us there is through his commands to pray for those in power, especially the ones we disagree with.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” – Matthew 5:43-48

So, after we pray for those in power, and for peace and protection and comfort in difficult times, what do we do?

Well, he tells us through the words of the Apostle Paul to:

“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless indeed you fail to meet the test! I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test. … Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.” – 1 Corinthians 13:5-11

How do we aim for restoration? By acting in ways that build bridges, rather than burning them! By praying for one another, by seeking to understand others’ perspectives, and by seeking to align ourselves completely to God, so that by default we will agree, because we will hold to the fundamentals of what is most important to God himself.

When we live in such humility and open love toward others, we will be able to live in peace, because we will no longer have any reason for violence.

Surrender and conformity to the Gospel is the way God has chosen to reform the world. This is why God is the only hope we have in this life to experience a portion of the unity, joy, love, and purity we will have in the next life. This is why he tells us to make living in conformity to the Gospel, and sharing about God with others, our main goal in life.

We will never excise the evil from humans by campaigning for political reform. And since we only have so many years of life, the Spirit constrains us to share the good news of what will excise the evil from humans.

By living in that way, we live by trust in him. Confident that he will change the world through our small obedience and surrender. That he has the power to pull back the veil of darkness that seems to be sweeping our country. Not giving into fear, but rather letting him strengthen us to live worthy of the calling he’s put on our lives as his children, not because of any good in us, but because he loved us and earned our love and obedience in response.

That’s called faith.

And faith shakes nations.

Let’s pray.

PRAYER

Holy Spirit, strengthen us to live the Gospel, and to share it with others! Keep our minds and tongues from getting entangled in hopeless political squabbles. Instead, deliver us into the freedom you have for us, in your power and endless life as the risen Lord. Encourage our hearts. Comfort our sorrow. Help us to trust you more than we distrust the evil men and women who are a part of leading our country. And we pray for them, that you will work in their hearts, and bring them to repentance and to dependence on you! Guide them into making choices that work for your glory. Amen.

DIG DEEPER

For one week, don’t let yourself watch the news or get into any political arguments with anyone. Just walk away, and instead focus your mind on the trustworthiness, strength, and consistency of God, and the hope he promises us of freedom in this life, and a new life of perfect purity in the next.

A prayer for the new year

Next week, we’ll finally resume the (mostly) weekly Sabbath Selah devotional schedule. But first, with 2020 gone, I wanted to offer up a prayer for the new year.

PRAYER FOR 2021

Jesus, thank you for sustaining us through 2020. Through everything and everyone we lost. Through the pains and the joys we gained.

You have been faithful. You have never once abandoned us.

Now, as we begin 2021, we dedicate our hearts and lives to you anew.

Because what promise do we have that 2021 will not add sorrow onto sorrow?

Yet you know what 2021 holds. And we can face it all, so long as you give us the strength to.

So, we surrender completely to you, and ask you to purify and strengthen us this year to overcome whatever difficulties you bring us to in your perfect wisdom.

We know that if we trust in ourselves, we will fail. Yet if we live completely dependent on you, we will not be disappointed!

Thank you for how you have grown us. Thank you for how you will continue to grow us this new year.

We trust that you have chosen us to be yours, and that no one can snatch us from your hands.

We trust that you are faithful to complete the good work you have begun in us.

We praise you because you are the God of all comfort. You weep when we weep, and comfort us in our affliction.

Because you faced this world, and experienced all our joys and sorrows, so that you can fight for us with mercy and gentleness. And whatever you fight, you overcome! So you are our complete confidence for our lives.

Be our joy all this year. You are the reward we look to! You are the one constant in our life.

You are faithful when everyone else is unfaithful.

You are strong when everyone else is weak.

You are good when everyone else is evil.

You are alive forever. And you promise that if we live by trust in you, you will give us life with you forever.

This is how you have become our future reward as well as our current hope, deliverance, and joy!

From the beginning to the end, our lives depend on you, your promises, and your gifts.

Everything we have, you gave us. From our next breath, to our final home. And so you have every right to take something away, or to give us something new.

Yet you are kind, gentle, and merciful in all your ways! And we love you for it.

Be our pleasure. Make us content in you, regardless of circumstance.

Keep our hearts focused on you, and keep us from becoming discouraged!

In all things, be glorified in our lives! Show yourself powerful to save and to deliver, to purify and to strengthen, to give joy and to satisfy.

So that many more will surrender their lives to you! Because you are worthy of everything!

Amen.

End of year update

Today is going to be a bit different.

Rather than a devotional, I wanted to give a few updates. 

Although it may seem like I’ve been pretty inactive (especially because 2020 has felt infinitely long – RIGHT?!), with only one book released this year (EDEN), a lot more has been in the works.

In addition to writing Eden, I wrote a screenplay that will never see the light of day because the theaters died this year (thanks COVID), and I’m nearing 300 pages written in Abram (looking at an April launch). God willing, the next book, Isaac, should be out late in 2021, which will make 2021 a bit more exciting.

But what I’m most pumped about is a very large project I’ve been working on at my day job.

A free, world-class video course on the Gospel for adults and for children! We’re on track to have the entire project translated, dubbed (meaning narrated in a new language), and available in about 15 languages by the end of 2021.

The project’s goal is to give new Christians a heart-level understanding of the Gospel, and the tools they need to start getting spiritually nourished, and engaged with a local church, to grow in their faith and faithfulness to Christ.

Yes, there are lots of Gospel presentations out there. But this course solves a slew of unique problems, and sprang out of our frustration and inability to find anything similar to serve an international audience.

These digital resources will be offered for free to countless missionaries, pastors, ministries, and individuals around the globe.

Most pastors internationally are bi-vocational, have nearly no margin, virtually no training, and limited education. But God has chosen them, and they have faithfully answered his call to minister to people and start churches.

God uses these men and women mightily. But because their congregants lack access to many of the simple materials that we take for granted, their job is made more difficult, and they hunger for materials to support them. This video series will solve some real issues for many of them.

Yet all of us have opportunities to minister to people around us.

Because of this, I believe that this free video course will be useful to many of you, as well.

Not only do I think many of you will enjoy the video course purely because the Gospel is so central a focus in our lives, but I think that you will find it a useful tool to go through with your Bible study groups, or to send to your friends who are seeking to understand Christianity better, or to give to new believers who want a next-step.

So, when it’s ready in the Spring of 2021, I’ll send you the course.

What 2020 has reminded us all of is that one day, our bodies will stop working. Our family will be torn away. Our possessions will rot. And we’ll be standing in front of our Maker, alone, and everything we did in life will be weighed in the scales of eternity. I don’t want him disappointed with the results.

I know I’ve done a poor job of getting a devotional out each week. I’m trying to not lose focus, but apparently I’m bad at that. One of these days, I’ll figure out how to hold myself to a schedule like a real adult. I’m working on it!

Thank you so much for your support. Honestly, you’ve made this year a wonderful year in writing-land.

Eden has sold fantastically well (nearly 180 reviews/ratings on Amazon! – and to think that because of modern technology, I’m able to do this all on my own and from my couch – it’s mind blowing!). The feedback from you all has been incredibly encouraging. You’ve been a blessing to me. So, I’m praying that God will bless you, as well.

-Brennan McP

Let Us Sing to the Lord – A Sabbath Selah Devotional

let us sing to the lord devotional image

I wrote this devotional for last week, but the day I was going to publish it, I got a call about my brother.

He’s been struggling with cancer, and now it isn’t looking so good.

Two days after, I woke up to another call that my toddler nephew has had a severe medical emergency, and we don’t know why.

I suppose it’s just more proof of why I need this weekly devotional as much as anyone.

I’ve been aching. Weeping like I haven’t for a decade. I hate even writing that sentence because I just wish it would all just go away. Poof. Just kidding! Everything’s fine. But it’s not fine. It’s awful.

Yet I look at Scripture and this is what it says.

“Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!” – Psalm 95:1-2

So. . . we sing.

Because heavy hearts are weighed further by heavy thoughts.

But joyful thanksgiving lifts even the darkest of spirits.

At times, in the throes of depression, all our singing of the glories of God may not trickle deep enough through to fog for us to feel the uplift we long for.

But if his wonders and beauty and grace and forgiveness and presence and faithfulness and good gifts (life, joy, love, peace, goodness) aren’t enough to sing about, what do we even believe in?

No, we are Christians because we believe God is infinitely good, whether we can feel him or not.

And our active choice to worship and give thanks to the Lord always has a real spiritual effect. If we do not feel the extent of it now, we trust and have come to know through experience that he will reward us for putting our trust in him despite this.

Still, in many cases, taking time to praise him with joyful songs, and to offer thanksgiving, is the resolution we long for, the salve to our pain, the comfort in our affliction.

Because it is not just the words we speak, but also the way that we speak them.

It is not just the songs that we sing, but the way that we pour our hearts through them.

It is not just the actions we choose, but also the motivation behind them.

“For forty years I loathed that generation

    and said, ‘They are a people who go astray in their heart,

    and they have not known my ways.’

Therefore I swore in my wrath,

    ‘They shall not enter my rest.’” – Psalm 95:10-11

He warns us here that if we consistently let our hearts go astray from this central focus on his glory, we will not know him, and will not experience his rest.

Yet in Psalm 127, we are also promised that:

“Unless the Lord builds the house,
    those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early
    and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
    for he gives to his beloved sleep.”

We are his beloved children.

He gives us rest in him. He is the giver, and we are the one who accepts his gift.

So he invites us to take joy in praising him.

“As a deer pants for flowing streams,
    so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
    for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?”

The time is now.

As you read this, you have time to bend your heart in thankful praise and worship toward the Lord who has given you and me all things.

Meet with him in your inward being, because he is calling you to himself!

Drink from his well, and be satisfied.

Sing!

Let’s pray.

PRAYER

Praises, Lord! We praise you! With everything we have, we praise you. Help us to feel the intensity of your goodness. Be with us, fill us with your Spirit, comfort us, and thank you for your faithfulness, and for supplying our every need. Thank you for taking time to supply us, so that we are pushed to be patient in spending our lives with you. And thank you for your patience with us. Amen.

DIG DEEPER

Sing a few songs in your personal prayer time. God knows I need to.

Let Us Not Grow Weary of Doing Good – A Sabbath Selah Devotional

let us not grow weary of doing good devotional image

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” – Galatians 6:9

I have the hardest time with consistency.

Anything that I have to do over and over, every day or week, frustrates me.

Like mowing the lawn. Or making the bed. Or doing the dishes.

If I think too much about how those tasks will be calling for me again shortly after they’re finished – it’s enough to put me in a bad mood.

Yet God calls us to consistency.

The kind of consistency that goes to work every day and faithfully punches in. The kind of consistency that does a good job even when you don’t want to.

And he himself modeled consistency in his perfect life and his dedication to prayer and service.

So, what is our motivation to remain consistent?

Our hope in Christ: a pure life in joy with him forever.

We can only experience that joyful, full life with him now or in eternity by keeping our hearts consistently focused on him.

The Bible refers to this long-term, consistent trajectory as steadfastness.

And steadfastness is a fruit of the spirit. What does that mean?

It means that steadfastness is something we cannot manufacture in ourselves.

Instead, the Spirit of God grows steadfastness in us as we spend time in prayer with others, worshipping him, reading his Word, and bending our lifestyles to his will.

These activities are referred to as spiritual disciplines for a reason: they don’t always give immediate gratification.

Rather, they are lifestyle choices we make because we know that they please God, that they nourish us spiritually, and that we cannot remain walking in step with the Spirit of Christ for long without them.

God knew that there would be times when we would grow tired, and be tempted to stop doing the good that he has commanded us to do.

He also knew that the spiritual weariness itself would eventually pass. And that it would be salved by the respite we receive from prayer, worship, and time with others.

But have any of you experienced the increasing weariness that comes with throwing up your hands and giving up?

You find yourself spiritually tired, and you don’t want to live up to the standards God has given.

So you say, “What’s the use? I might as well just give up.”

But what happens?

You grow twice as weary.

Not only that, you become bogged down with hollow, heavy guilt, and feelings of inadequacy and loneliness surround you as your sinful attitude and behavior drives a wedge between you and God.

If you feel you should be spending more time with God, or that you should be making changes to your lifestyle or schedule, don’t let your emotions push you away from him in this moment.

He longs for you to run to him.

And he promises that he will reward you.

He’ll comfort you.

He will be your rest.

He will satisfy you like water satisfies a thirsty man in a desert.

And your weariness and weakness will not last.

Because as you surrender, and bend your heart and spirit toward God, his Spirit will build you up.

“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” – Colossians 4:2

“May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.” 2 Thessalonians 3:5

“for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” – James 1:3-4

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” – James 1:12

Let’s pray.

PRAYER

Thank you, Lord, for your consistency! You are always there for us. You always fulfill your promises. And you are always working in us. So, we surrender to your will, Lord. And our hearts long for intimate relationship with you! Make us strong by your Spirit, to obey you, and to please you with everything we say, think, and do. Amen.

DIG DEEPER

What is one thing that you are really bad at being consistent with? Share with someone you trust, and ask them to hold you accountable to make a very specific change to combat that.

Baseball, Bumblebees, and Politics – A Sabbath Selah Devotional

One day, a child was playing with a baseball bat in the yard while his parents were off in the distance near the trees.

The boy threw a baseball into the air and struck it.

For a moment, he was worried it would hit his parents, whom he loved very much. Instead, it went into the trees.

Relieved, he waved to his parents, who saw him and smiled.

Then, suddenly, the father started beating the boy’s mother.

He was whacking her all over, and she was screaming, and they both fell to the ground.

But the father KEPT ON beating the mother.

Then the father got up and jerked her arm hard, dragging her away.

The boy stood wide-eyed in horror.

Then he gathered his wits and ran toward them, screaming, “Stop it! Stop hurting my mommy!”

He lifted his baseball bat, and came at his father, ready to protect his mother. . .

The only problem was that his father was not beating his mother.

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